Staunton, February 10 – The United States not only wants to promote nationally limited Orthodox Churches in the former Soviet republics as it has already done in Ukraine and hopes to do in Belarus but also to split the Orthodox Church in Russia by creating an Orthodox Church of the Russian Federation in place of the ROC MP, Stanislav Smagin says.
This effort, the Regnum commentator argues, is intended not just to weaken Moscow’s influence across the former Soviet space but in fact to promote the disintegration of the Russian Federation itself by eliminating or significantly reducing in stature the Moscow Patriarchate which helps keep it together (regnum.ru/news/polit/2855954.html).
Tragically, just as in Ukraine and Belarus, the US has people it can work with to promote these goals, not “petty splitter organization of the type of the Russian Orthodox Apostolic Church” but rather individuals and groups within the ROC MP who oppose “the Patriarch and his line and the secular powers.”
This category includes not just the notorious Andrey Kurayev or the now-late Sergey Chaplin but all those who signed the letter defending those arrested in Moscow protests, a group that included not just liberals but religious hierarchs of many stripes united only by opposition to the Patriarch and Putin, including some connected with the Cossacks!
There are of course “objective” causes for these people coming together, causes that the Russian Church and the Russian state have failed to address in an adequate way, Smagin says. The luxuries many church hierarchs have allowed themselves are among the things that have alienated other churchmen and ordinary believers.
Many of these people are leaving the church and even religion as a whole. But “some are following the program of an Orthodox Church of the Russian Federation” – and that is truly dangerous. Neither the ROC MP nor the Russian state have yet recognized that directly attacking this idea and not doing anything else is counterproductive.
Those who don’t know about a national Orthodox Church will learn of it from these attacks and seek to learn more, and others will be upset that the regime and the church are violating the principles of religious freedom. The West and the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople are only too happy to exploit such feelings.
At some point, Constantinople may extend autocephaly to an Orthodox Church of the Russian Federation, Smagin says. It can always find a pretext to do so. But equally and more immediately worrisome is the fact that ever more believers are already inclined to believe that the Orthodox church in Russia should be a national church and one ready to stand up to the state.
That represents a threat to the ROC MP and even more to the Russian state, the commentator concludes; and both need to think long and hard about how to counter it. Among the first steps must be a cleansing of the ranks of the religious hierarchy so that people there won’t be able to inflict so much harm on Russia.